With the 21st century being the moment of eclectic experimentation for many old school-new school hybrid singers, the Texan singer and producer Leon Bridges jumps in with months of extensive homework of his genres’ roots, a thoughtful gaze to today’s music, and poured it all on his second album “Good Thing”.
As seen from his debut album “Coming Home”, bringing old-school music back — that is, blues, funk, gospel, R&B — is nothing new. Tracks like “Smooth Sailin” reminds listeners of a toned-down James Brown while the single “Pull Away” kindly drag us back to Sam Cooke’s era. Compared to fellow R&B and singer Miguel or The Weekend that have notoriously promoted the rich and bassy overtones like that of EDM in R&B songs, Bridges’ works had stuck its mixing to the “fresh-from-the-oven” feel, almost as if modern day mixing did not exist.
“Good Thing”, however, intermingles the aforementioned differences. The percussions in “Forgive You” nearly mimics the immensely used house-style patterns while keeping the 60’s tonality. Both “If It Feels Good” and “You Don’t Know” makes an even bigger jump with reverbs and sunset-coated funk which were possibly influenced by, but not limited to, Bruno Mars’ popularity with 24k Magic that managed to mix old-school genres to his tracks. Even when Bridges attempts to be a minimalist, its meticulously mixed instruments says otherwise.
In two words, he transitions to a phase: Neo-Soul.
To complete the phase, he unhesitantly showcase his feather-light vocals capabilities, right from the melancholic falsettos in the chorus of “Bet It Ain’t Worth The Hand” to the ambitious vocal runs in “Mrs.”, which may be a sign that Bridges is getting comfortable in expanding his own art — something that was lackluster in the first album.
In the haze of all the changes, however, his bowl of soulful lyrics remains plenty. Take this painfully honest confession from “Lions” as an example, in which he expresses his anguish from being in a relationship where he couldn’t be himself:
“I won’t let the devil get over, but when the water’s boiled up and the pot starts to burn, you start to understand the man.” – “Lions” by Leon Bridges
All things considered, Leon Bridges has all the freedom to grow as an artist in forthcoming albums, just like how Miguel’s 2000’s R&B evolved to a mature duet with Mariah Carey or Justin’s straight-out pop to experimental 808 and Americana music in his latest album. While this does not guarantee that Bridges will start using autotune or dubstep synths (although he could!),fans who favor nothing else than deep-rooted soul and R&B music may have a reason to be both anxious and excited in the explorative nature of Bridge’s artistic development.
Watch Leon Bridges perform ‘Beyond’ on The Graham Norton Show below…